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Robin C. Jackson and Julien S. Baker

This paper presents a case study of the most prolific rugby goal kicker of all time. In the first part of the study, the consistency of his preperformance routine was analyzed over kicks of varying difficulty. Results indicate that while certain physical aspects of his routine remain consistent, both his concentration time and physical preparation time increase with kick difficulty. In the second part of the study, the participant was interviewed about his physical and mental preparation for rugby goal kicking in competitive situations. The interview revealed that the participant incorporates a number of psychological skills into his routine, including thought stopping, cueing, and imagery but does not do so consistently. However, he perceives the timing of his routine to be highly consistent. Implications of these findings for the recommendation that performers strive for temporal consistency in their routines (Boutcher, 1990) are discussed.

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Kelly J. Ashford and Robin C. Jackson

The present study examined the effectiveness of a priming paradigm in alleviating skill failure under stress. The priming intervention took the form of a scrambled sentence task. Experiment 1: Thirty-four skilled field-hockey players performed a dribbling task in low- and high-pressure situations under single task, skill-focused, and priming conditions. Results revealed a significant increase in performance time from low to high pressure. In addition, performance in the priming condition was significantly better than in the control and skill-focused conditions. Experiment 2: Thirty skilled field-hockey players completed the same dribbling task as in Experiment 1; however, in addition to the control and skill-focused conditions, participants were allocated to either a positive, neutral, or negative priming condition. Results revealed significant improvements in performance time from the skill focus to the control to the priming condition for the positive and neutral groups. For the negative group, times were significantly slower in the priming condition. Results are discussed in terms of utilizing priming in a sporting context.

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Damian Farrow, Bruce Abernethy and Robin C. Jackson

Two experiments were conducted to examine whether the conclusions drawn regarding the timing of anticipatory information pick-up from temporal occlusion studies are influenced by whether (a) the viewing period is of variable or fixed duration and (b) the task is a laboratory-based one with simple responses or a natural one requiring a coupled, interceptive movement response. Skilled and novice tennis players either made pencil-and-paper predictions of service direction (Experiment 1) or attempted to hit return strokes (Experiment 2) to tennis serves while their vision was temporally occluded in either a traditional progressive mode (where more information was revealed in each subsequent occlusion condition) or a moving window mode (where the visual display was only available for a fixed duration with this window shifted to different phases of the service action). Conclusions regarding the timing of information pick-up were generally consistent across display mode and across task setting lending support to the veracity and generalisability of findings regarding perceptual expertise in existing laboratory-based progressive temporal occlusion studies.

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Danielle Adams, Kelly J. Ashford and Robin C. Jackson

The effect of priming on the speed and accuracy of skilled performance and on a probe-reaction time task designed to measure residual attentional capacity, was assessed. Twenty-four skilled soccer players completed a dribbling task under three prime conditions (fluency, skill-focus, and neutral) and a control condition. Results revealed changes in trial completion time and secondary task performance in line with successfully priming autonomous and skill-focused attention. Retention test data for task completion time and probe-reaction time indicated a linear decrease in the priming effect such that the effect was nonsignificant after 30 min. Results provide further support for the efficacy of priming and provide the first evidence of concurrent changes in attentional demands, consistent with promoting or disrupting automatic skill execution.

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Robin C. Jackson, Kelly J. Ashford and Glen Norsworthy

Attentional processes governing skilled motor behavior were examined in two studies. In Experiment 1, field hockey players performed a dribbling task under single-task, dual-task, and skill-focused conditions under both low and high pressure situations. In Experiment 2, skilled soccer players performed a dribbling task under single-task, skill-focused, and process-goal conditions, again under low and high pressure situations. Results replicated recent findings regarding the detrimental effect of skill-focused attention and the facilitative effect of dual-task conditions on skilled performance. In addition, focusing on movement related process goals was found to adversely affect performance. Support for the predictive validity of the Reinvestment Scale was also found, with high reinvesters displaying greater susceptibility to skill failure under pressure. Results were consistent with explicit monitoring theories of choking and are further discussed in light of the conceptual distinction between explicit monitoring and reinvestment of conscious control.

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Daniel T. Bishop, Michael J. Wright, Robin C. Jackson and Bruce Abernethy

The aim of this study was to examine the neural bases for perceptual-cognitive superiority in a soccer anticipation task using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Thirty-nine participants lay in an MRI scanner while performing a video-based task in which they predicted an oncoming opponent’s movements. Video clips were occluded at four time points, and participants were grouped according to in-task performance. Early occlusion reduced prediction accuracy significantly for all participants, as did the opponent’s execution of a deceptive maneuver; however, high-skill participants were significantly more accurate than their low-skill counterparts under deceptive conditions. This perceptual-cognitive superiority was associated with greater activation of cortical and subcortical structures involved in executive function and oculomotor control. The contributions of the present findings to an existing neural model of anticipation in sport are highlighted.